April 15, 2021
Wisdom to Understand
Many times when we pray we ask God for wisdom. His wisdom. We look to better understand the plan He has for our lives and where He is taking us. There are sometimes doubts and questions and it is important to remember and draw on God’s Word. Looking at familiar teachings from Jesus are a great place to return and offer peace in challenging times. From the writings of the late Billy Graham comes a great reminder, taken from billygraham.org:
When Jesus uttered His words of comfort in the first few verses of the fourteenth chapter of John’s Gospel, concluding with, “And whither I go ye know, and the way ye know” (John 14:4), Thomas said unto Him, “Lord, we know not whither thou goest; and how can we know the way?” (John 14:5). Jesus answered him with a statement which has in it the ring of eternity. It was sublimely simple and yet profoundly deep. Its surface meaning was clear to all, and yet the great theologians have never completely sounded its mighty depths. This is that statement, “I am the way, the truth, and the life; no man cometh unto the Father, but by me” (John 14:6).
In one majestic sweep, these words silenced Thomas’ questioning tongue and brought reassurance and peace to the hearts of the other disciples. Within the marvel of that authoritative sentence from the lips of the Son of God, there was enough comfort to assuage the sufferings of the tormented, enough wisdom to satisfy those who yearned for understanding, and enough power to set the great Christian movement in motion.
Father, thank you for your Word and for sharing your wisdom. Help me to always seek your will for my life.
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April 8, 2021
Who Is Our Neighbor?
The command from Jesus is to love our neighbor. Face it, some people are just unlovable. Like all of us sometimes. It is important to note that we all need to be loved, even when we don’t deserve it. We know God loves us unconditionally. He is there for us. So, we should be there for our neighbor. We need to better understand our neighbor and what our responsibility looks like. Recently, we completed a Bible Study, Gospel in Life, from Tim Keller. In an excerpt from this study, Dr. Keller shares a powerful truth from scripture, and fully describes our neighbor.
In effect, the law expert was saying to Jesus, “Come on, now. Be reasonable! You don’t mean we have to love everyone like this, do you? Who is my neighbor?
Jesus responded by making a Samaritan and a Jew the two main characters in his parable. They were extreme enemies, yet the Samaritan gave aid in spite of the following facts:
It was extremely dangerous for the Samaritan to stop on a desolate road infested with robbers.
It was very expensive for the Samaritan to give the innkeeper a promise to pay whatever it might cost to care for the man until he recovered.
Jesus’ answer is clear and devastating; it demolishes any limitations put on our mercy. We are to help people of other races and religions, even from groups we have a reason to distrust. We are to help, even when it is risky and costly to us.
In summary, we are to love in word and deed anyone we find in need, any one we find on the road. They are our neighbors.
Father help us to love our neighbor as you love us. Guide us to better serve you, our community and beyond.
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April 1, 2021
Where do we go from here?
This weekend, as we return to kneel at the foot of the cross and then journey to the empty tomb, we celebrate the living Savior Jesus Christ. It is important as followers of Christ to do this, and to remember the enormity of the Lord’s sacrifice. It is a time to celebrate His resurrection and rejoice in the magnificent gift of grace we have received. Although we know this well through God’s Word, it is still an experience of extremes that speaks to us in the most powerful ways drawing us closer to Him. After this journey, it is important to remember what comes next. Where do we go from here and why? From his commentary in his Study Bible, Warren Wiersbe helps us to remember and understand:
Jesus based His commissioning of the disciples on His authority. In Matthew 28:18, the word “authority” indicates the right to use power. The entire Gospel of Matthew stresses the authority of Jesus Christ. His teaching had authority (7:29). He exercised authority in healing (8:1-13), and even in forgiving sins (9:6). He had authority over Satan, and He delegated authority to His apostles (10:1). At the close of his gospel, Matthew made it clear that Jesus has been given all authority. Because of this we obey Him without fear. No matter where He leads us, no matter what circumstances we face, He is in control. By His death and resurrection, Jesus defeated all enemies and won for Himself all authority.
Have you given Jesus authority over your life and witness for Him?
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March 25, 2021
How Should I Get Even?
Revenge. Retaliate. Don’t get mad, get even. You know, an eye for an eye. At a minimum, it is important for me to defend myself.
As followers of Christ we know there is a better way, but this one can be very difficult. We don’t want to appear weak or unwilling to step up. Even when we abide in Christ and are prompted by the Holy Spirit, we struggle with giving it to God. What can follow are serious consequences and we look for an answer in scripture. From his book Bible Answers for Almost All Your Questions, Elmer Towns shares an answer from God’s Word:
Jesus gave the proper attitude regarding vengeance when he said, “If anyone wants to sue you and take away your tunic, let him have your cloak also” (Matthew 5:40). This verse does not mean you should not defend your family, your property, or your country, but rather that you should not attempt personal revenge, even though you might use the law to compensate for personal injury.
Paul reinforces this theme: “Beloved, do not avenge yourselves, but rather give place to wrath; for it is written, ‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay”’ (Romans 12:19; see also verses 20-21).
Self -revenge has no place in the Christian life. We are told to “give place to wrath,” which means you allow God to handle the situation, rather than taking revenge yourself. You should “overcome evil with good” (Romans 12:21). You must resist the impulse to retaliate to do good to those who do evil to you.
What has your reaction been when wronged by another person? What has been the result of that action?
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March 4, 2021
Is it important to encourage one another? What does that mean and what does it entail? Being nice? Helping someone? Think about when someone encouraged you and what it meant. Recognizing the need to be an encourager is important, and there are examples in scripture to guide our understanding.
From his book “Max on Life-Answers and Inspiration for Today’s Questions”, Max Lucado shares a great example of encouragement:
An encourager does more than slap a few folks on the back. Sometimes he takes a risk on behalf of someone else. That’s what Barnabas did. He was such a source of encouragement that the apostles changed his name from Joseph to Barnabas, which means “Son of Encouragement” (Acts 4:36). At no point did he live up to his name more than the day he defended a new convert.
No one else wanted anything to do with the guy. Who would want a murderer in the church? But that’s who Saul was. And that’s why the apostles were skeptical.
Barnabas, however, practiced deliberate encouragement. “but Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. And he declared to them he [Saul] had seen the Lord on the road, and that He [Jesus] had spoken to him, and how he had preached boldly at Damascus in the name of Jesus. So, he was with them at Jerusalem, coming in and going out” (Acts 9:27-28 NKJV).
Suppose Barnabas had stayed quiet. Or suppose Barnabas had followed the crowd. Would the church had ever known Paul?
Every life needs a Barnabas. I encourage you to be one to someone else.
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February 26, 2021
Someone Like You
It can be difficult to allow ourselves to be used by God. As followers of Christ we seek to serve Him well, but at times can feel inadequate. I sometimes hesitate, so I don’t see what God has placed right in my path. We have been given much by the Lord and we want to be the best we can be, but we need to act. From harvest.org, Pastor Greg Laurie gives a great example from his own testimony:
When I first became a Christian, it was overwhelming to think that God would allow someone like me to come into a relationship with Him. But then I heard that God had given me certain spiritual gifts and wanted to use me to serve Him. I thought, “There’s no way that God could use someone like me.” After all, I was the guy who was always getting in trouble at school. How could I ever amount to anything?
Someone told me that I should go out and share my faith, and I thought that I’d surely fail if I tried to do such a thing. But God was gracious to me. The first person I engaged in an evangelistic conversation was a middle-aged woman, and she accepted Christ.
If she had asked me one slightly difficult question that day, I would have collapsed like a house of cards. Thankfully, she didn’t do that, and I got a taste of how the Lord could use me. But I was afraid that God was going to call me to preach. The thought actually terrified me.
The simple fact, however, is that God wants us to leave our comfort zones. He wants to use us to accomplish His purposes. The Bible is clear in pointing out that we’re all called to glorify Him with our lives and get the gospel out.
Romans 12:4–5 tells us, “Just as our bodies have many parts and each part has a special function, so it is with Christ’s body. We are many parts of one body, and we all belong to each other” (NLT).
Have you ever wondered whether God could use someone like you? Have you ever prayed, “Use me, Lord”?
If you pray a prayer like that in sincerity, then God will hear you, answer that prayer, and open up opportunities for you.
February 19, 2021
Character counts. Character building. This will strengthen your character. I would be content just being a “character.” So, what is character? Webster offers a list of definitions and here are a couple: 1)One of the attributes or features that make up and distinguish an individual. 2)Moral excellence and firmness.
So, we are thinking one would want attributes to their character to be moral excellence and firmness. With this knowledge we can move forward in our walk with Christ, and as a person of good character things will go smoothly from here in work and family. Perhaps before we complete our “character analysis”, we should see what God’s Word has to say. In his commentary from the book Be Right, a commentary on the book of Romans, Warren Wiersbe discusses developing Christian character:
Justification is no escape from the trials of life. “In the world you will have tribulation” (John 16:33). But for the believer, trials work for him. No amount of suffering can separate us from the Lord; instead trials bring us closer to the Lord and make us more like the Lord. Suffering builds Christian character. The word 'experience' in Romans 5:4 means, “character that has been proved.” The sequence is tribulation-patience-proven character-hope. Our English word tribulation comes from a Latin word 'tribulum'. In Paul’s day, a tribulum was a heavy piece of timber with spikes in it, used for threshing grain. The tribulum was drawn over the grain and it separated the wheat from the chaff. As we go through tribulations, and depend only on God’s grace, the trials only purify us and help us get rid of the chaff.
Lord help me to use the trials in my life to draw closer to you and strengthen my character. Thank you for your grace.
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Romans 5: 3-5
February 12, 2021
God is a fortress. I understand that. When we are under attack or find ourselves in trouble needing protection and help, we run to the fortress. God is strong and powerful, and we see examples throughout scripture. But scripture also says God is a fountain. I have some questions about what that means. In the book God’s Wisdom for Navigating Life Tim Keller discusses why both should be understood and their importance in everyday life:
God is both a fortress and a fountain, because “evil not only attacks but attracts us.” We are tempted to lie, be ruthless, and trample on others-for fear that if we are too virtuous, we will be passed in the competition of life. But we are also tempted to greed, lust gluttony-for fear that if we are too virtuous, we will miss out on much joy and pleasure. This means we must not simply know how to trust in God as a fortress. We must also learn to delight in him, enjoying his presence and love as a fountain. Some kinds of Christianity put emphasis on the will and life actions, other kinds on emotions, worship, and praise. The Bible never, emphasizes one over the other or pits them against each other.
When others, including our children, see us trusting God and not melting down before the problems of life-and when they see us actually delighting in God rather than merely being dutiful-that may be a refuge for them. It may attract them to a relationship with him.
When people who know you well watch you under pressure, what do they see?
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February 4, 2021
Run Your Own Race
The “rat race.” “It’s a dog eat dog world out there.” “Lead or get out of the way.” The drive to succeed knows no boundaries, and we worry about the competition getting ahead. While personally never paying attention to time spent and wasted on worrying about the 'threat' from others, surely it is a significant number. There must be a better way. In his book Life Promises for Leaders, Zig Ziglar shares an important truth:
When we constantly measure ourselves by the successes and failures of others, we run the risk of losing our identity. When we feel insecure, we try to copy those who look successful and we criticize those who mess up. Our goal is to be one up on everybody else. We can’t afford to let anybody look better than we do. We live in fear that somebody will find out that we aren’t as “put together” as we want them to think, and our relationships suffer. We smile on the outside but were worried sick. Some of us have lived this way so long that we don’t even know there’s another way to live. Each of us has our own race to run and need to devote our energies to running that race-only that race-as well as we possibly can. When you realize you’re comparing yourself to others, either positively or negatively, remember that you are responsible to run your own race, not someone else’s. Running your own race is doing the best you can every chance you get with what you have for a purpose that outlives you.
What are some ways that “comparison kills”?
How would it be helpful for you to focus on running your own race?
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1 Corinthians 9:24
January 29, 2021
Focus on One Thing at a Time
Why don’t you multitask? You can accomplish more working on several things at one time. I have heard this over and over, and continue to struggle, not achieving any measurable success as a multitask-er. You can imagine my delight after discovering maybe I was “normal” after all. In his book “God’s Answer’s to Life’s Difficult Questions”, Pastor Rick Warren finds powerful support in scripture for focusing on one thing at a time. This is his “principle number four” for stress management.
Do you sometimes find yourself pulled in different directions? Several people tried to detour Jesus from his planned schedule. They tried to distract him from his goal in life. “At daybreak Jesus went out to a solitary place. The people were looking for him and when they came to where he was, they tried to keep him from leaving them” (Luke 4:42). Jesus was going to leave, but they tried to make him stay.
Jesus responded, “I must preach the good news of the kingdom of God to other towns also, because that is why I was sent” (v.43). He refused to be distracted by less important matters.
Principle number four for stress management is this: Focus on one thing at a time. It is the principle of concentration. Jesus was a master at this. It seemed that everybody tried to interrupt him; everyone had a Plan B for him. But Jesus responded, “Sorry, I must keep moving toward my goal.” He kept right on doing what he knew God had told him to do: preach about the kingdom of God. He was determined. He was persistent. He was focused.
When I have thirty things to do on my desk, I clear my desk and work on one thing. When I finish that, I pick up something else. You can’t catch two jackrabbits at once. You’ve got to focus on one.
When we diffuse our efforts, we are ineffective. When we concentrate our efforts, we are more effective. Light diffused produces a hazy glow, but light concentrated produces fire. Jesus Christ did not let interruptions prevent him from concentrating on his goal; he did not let others make him tense or stressed or irritated.
What can I do to improve my focus and prioritize what is important?
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January 21, 2021
How Do We Learn to Love God?
From time to time, we men struggle with love and its meaning. It can be helpful to take inventory of the things we say we love. I love hunting when the game is plentiful. I love golf when I am striking the ball well. I love Texas Ranger baseball when the team is winning. Conditional love. Sigh.
Unconditional love is much more serious and important. We love our families, our wives, and our kids and they need us to love unconditionally. We should always be focused on this and working to be better. So, what about God? How do we learn to love God? In J.D. Greear’s book Gospel-Recovering the Power that Made Christianity Revolutionary, Dr. Greear offers a great perspective:
How, then, do we learn to love God? That’s the dilemma of the “great commandment”: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind” (Matt. 22:37). But how can true love be commanded?
Being commanded to love someone you have no natural affection for becomes wearisome. True love grows as a response to loveliness. The first time I saw my wife, I felt the beginnings of love for her. The more I’ve gotten to know her over the years, and the more I’ve seen of her beauty, the more I’ve grown to love her. My love is a response.
Love for God is commanded in Scripture, but the command can only truly be fulfilled as our eyes are opened to see God’s beauty revealed in the gospel. The Spirit of God uses the beauty of the gospel to awaken our hearts to a desire for God. “We love Him,” the apostle John would say, “because He first loved us” (1 John 4:19 NKJV). Love for God grows out of an experience of the love of God.
When we focus primarily on behavior change, we are ignoring the real issue: a heart that doesn’t want to love God. That’s certainly not to say we should only obey God when we feel like it; only preaching Christianity primarily as a set of new behaviors will create people who act right without ever loving right. This creates hypocrites, weary and resentful of God.
Take A Look
“The greatest happiness in life is the conviction that we are loved; loved for ourselves, or rather, loved in spite of ourselves.”
January 14, 2021
Praying Without Ceasing
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18, “Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.” These words sum up what the prayer life of a Christ follower looks like. The “pray without ceasing” threw me off at first, because people would think it strange if I never stopped praying. I heard someone say, “praying without ceasing does not mean closing your eyes and putting your head down while driving.” Figured that one out on my own. In his book Max on Life, Max Lucado shares a great perspective:
Unceasing prayer may sound complicated, but it needn’t be that way. Do this. Change your definition of prayer. Think of prayers less as an activity for God and more as an awareness of God. Seek to live in uninterrupted awareness. Acknowledge his presence everywhere you go. As you stand in line to register your car, think, Thank you, Lord, for being here. In the grocery store as you shop, think, Your presence, my King, I welcome. As you wash the dishes, worship your Maker. Brother Lawrence did. This well-known saint called himself the “lord of all pots and pans.” In his book The Practice of the Presence of God, he wrote:
The time of business does not with me differ from the time of prayer; and the noise and clatter of my kitchen, while several persons are at the same time calling for different things, I possess God in as great tranquility as if on my knees at the blessed sacrament.
Besides, it makes more sense to talk to God than mumble to yourself.
How can I find ways to add prayer to daily activities and draw people to Christ?
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January 6, 2021
Why Does God Not Answer Our Prayers?
This is one of the most difficult questions asked by Christians. Some ask in anger, but in my experience when posed to me, it is asked in sadness. Something caught my attention recently, that prayers are not answered because we don’t believe God will respond or grant our request. We lack faith. This makes sense, because in my own prayer life there are times when the superficial and casual references I make when coming before God are weak. Perhaps there are times where I don’t believe God will answer.
In his book Bible Answers for Almost All Your Questions, Elmer Towns speaks clearly about questions that challenge Christians. In the following excerpt, Dr. Towns addresses unanswered prayer:
Sometimes it’s because we are asking for things that God has not promised to give us. God has not promised long life to every person, though a few people may live long. So, God may not answer your prayer for a long life. God may also not answer your prayer because you ask God to take away things that He doesn’t want removed. As an illustration, God promises trouble to every person (Job 5:7), so we should pray for wisdom in the midst of our troubles for how to solve them or live with them (James 1:5). But God may not answer your prayer to take away your troubles.
God does not answer prayers when you ask Him to go against His nature. God cannot erase history or make a square circle. God will not make a stone too heavy for Him to lift. A student taking a test cannot pray for an answer if he has not studied and the answer is not on his mind. God doesn’t communicate out of a vacuum.
Sometimes you don’t get your prayers answered because you quit praying too soon. Perhaps God began answering your prayer, but you did not continue asking, so you didn’t get an answer. At other times it is because we don’t have faith (Mark 11:24). Sometimes we don’t ask in Jesus’ name (John 14:14), don’t abide in the Word of God (John 15:7), or don’t pray according to His will (1 John 5:14-15).
Where am I weak in my prayer life and how can I go to God with confidence?
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1 Chronicles 4:9,10
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